Volker Stevin Contracting Ltd. as well as a supervisor employed with the company have been found guilty on numerous counts that violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) following the 2019 death of a worker in Airdrie. 

According to court documents detailing the incident, on October 2, 2019, Habtom Abraha and Michael O’Neill, the supervisor, were both employees of Volker Stevin. They were inspecting catch basins in a residential area in Airdrie. During this task, O’Neill, who was driving a Ford F-550 truck owned by Volker Stevin, accidentally struck Abraha, resulting in fatal skull fractures.

The catch basin being inspected was a rectangular storm drain, covered by two grates and located between the roadway and the sidewalk, requiring visual inspection from a crouching position. Charges were subsequently laid in 2021.

In April, an Alberta Court of Justice Judge, J.D. Williams delivered his decision in the case. He found O'Neill guilty on three counts under the OHSA.

Among the counts that he was found guilty of, court documents stated that O'Neill failed to, 'take all precautions necessary to protect the health and safety of a worker under his supervision...' when he drove over Abraha with the company vehicle.

He also failed to, 'take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of Habtom Abraha, another worker present while he was working, by failing to ensure that, while operating a company truck in the proximity of Abraha, Abraha was not injured by the company truck...'

The other count he was found guilty of was, that, 'being an operator, and where the movement of a part of powered mobile equipment, to wit a company truck, created a danger to a worker, to wit Habtom Abraha, moved the equipment where the worker was exposed to the danger.'

Volker Stevin was found guilty on four counts under the OHSA. On the first count that the company was found guilty of, court documents stated that the company, 'failed in its general obligation to ensure the health and safety of Abraha.'

"As far as it was reasonably practicable to do so by failing to ensure that Abraha, was beyond the range of powered mobile equipment, to wit a company truck, while performing work."

The second count surrounded Volker Stevin's general obligations, which the judge said they did not meet.

"... They did not meet their general obligation to ensure the health and safety of Abraha, as far as it was reasonably practicable by failing to ensure Abraha and/or O’Neill, were sufficiently or adequately trained in work around catch basins and powered mobile equipment."

Court documents show that although at the time of the Incident, O’Neill was a licensed driver. the evidence demonstrates that O’Neill received no training as to his utilization of the truck when the intention was to use it “as a shield” from oncoming traffic in close proximity to workers conducting work in front of the truck. The last count dealt specifically with issues of a part of 'powered mobile equipment.' 

"The F-550 driven by O’Neill on the date in question satisfies the definition of powered mobile equipment. It was a motor vehicle which was designed to 'move material'. The flatbed on that truck satisfies this criteria."

In his concluding remarks, Judge Williams wrote that OHSA was designed to protect workers while engaged in their employment from a variety of hazards both physical and psychological.

"The events of October 2, 2019, were tragic not only for Abraha, his family and friends but also for O’Neill. I have no doubt that if he could change the events of that day he would."

Initially, in 2021 Volker Stevin Contracting Ltd. was charged as an employer with 26 counts under the OHSA, while O’Neill was charged with 4 counts under the act, and Donald Neustaedter, another supervisor was charged with 3 counts.

Sentencing has yet to occur in the case. 

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